Each installment features a writer, artist, or curator discussing an underrated artist, artwork, movement, or museum.

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt), Sphere, 1959

This episode features the photographer Alon Koppel, in discussion of Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt, also known as Gego, a modern Venezuelan artist and sculptor. Her work ran with the trends that blossomed in the 70s—sometimes with much in common, sometimes with very little—especially geometric abstraction and kinetic art. When did you first come into contact with her work? What were your first impressions? How did they change over time?

I first got acquainted with Gego’s work when driving cross-country in 2002. My wife and I drove through Houston, Texas and decided to check out their Museum of Fine Arts. Lo and behold they had a retrospective of her work called “Questioning the Line: Gego, a Selection, 1955-1990”. I remember feeling really touched by looking at (and through) sculpture that was clearly hand-made, yet monumental, and that felt very abstract and almost ephemeral, un-real.

As a photographer I try to convey or capture a slice of the three-dimensional world around us in two dimensions. I photograph objects and people, which sometimes translates well into two dimension and sometimes does not. So I struggle with the separation between 2D and 3D. I think Gego’s sculpture is so well rooted in both worlds at once that I think it overwhelmed my sensibility and my conviction that 2D and 3D are well-defined and separate sides often at odds with one another. She was able to break through that separation.

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt), Untitled, 1959

How did Gego differentiate herself from her contemporaries? What has made her work, in retrospect, singular?

Like many artists of the period of the Second World War and Nazi occupation, Gego (whose family was Jewish) was forced to leave Germany and move to South America. In an obviously very turbulent time I think it was challenging, yet very important for her to continue and produce her art. In Venezuela Gego was surrounded by several modernist artists, yet from what I know of her and her work she didn’t want to co-opt existing ideas and instead tried to create her own style. Her most important works are uniquely different from other kinetic art of the period because she treated the line in an artwork as the work itself, not just a component. She treated space in a similar way, playing with negative and positive space in a very dynamic way. Gego rejected the term ‘sculpture’ for her three-dimensional works, since sculpture is defined by mass and volume, while she looked to achieve a high degree of transparency and lightness in her work. I think that while she took herself very seriously, there is a very playful component in her work that is very unique and which I find very appealing.

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt), Untitled, 1966

Why do you think her work has been underrepresented? Does anyone come to mind who was influenced by her work?

I think most women artists are underrepresented! This is unfortunate but true throughout the history of the art world. I am not familiar with artists who were influenced by her work but have read that she deeply influenced other Latin American artists.

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt), Untitled, 1966

What do you think her legacy should be?

Gego is mostly known in South America and less so in North America and Europe. The Gego Foundation was started by her family after her death in 1994. They continue to advocate for her work and collaborate with museums to show her work. I am hoping that more and more museums and curators discover her work and present it to the public. In the meantime, there are some videos of her work online that are worth watching, and more people can be exposed to her work this way. In summary, I think her work is timeless and as such she can be discovered and celebrated, almost endlessly.

All images courtesy of MoMA.